Ten Eagles On the Roster Bubble

Philadelphia Eagles running back Chris Polk.The Eagles have until 9 p.m. Friday to cut their roster down to 53.

That means 22 players currently on the squad will be told not to show up next week.

Keeping that in mind, here are 10 players who are sitting squarely on the roster bubble.

Chris Polk – He’s had an OK preseason, carrying 13 times for 51 yards (3.9 YPC) and catching five balls for 42 yards. Polk has shown his versatility and is probably the Eagles’ best back in pass protection, but there might not be a spot for him. At this point, LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis and Bryce Brown are clearly ahead of him. Polk’s best chance at a roster spot is if the Eagles decide to keep a fourth running back.

Chad Hall – Amazingly, he’s still eligible for the practice squad. Hall was active for seven games last year and eight in 2010. He can do a lot of different things – run the ball, catch the ball, return kicks, return punts – but the question is whether he does any of them at a high enough level to warrant a roster spot. Hall has 14 catches for 135 yards and 12 carries for 42 yards in his career. It seems that undrafted free agent Damaris Johnson has a similar skill set, and the rookie is definitely going to make the team, which could make Hall expendable. Then again, with Riley Cooper likely to miss time early in the season, the Eagles could look to keep six receivers, and no one’s snatched that final spot just yet.

Marvin McNutt – Speaking of which… McNutt also has a chance for that last wide receiver spot. Taken in the sixth round of April’s draft, he has not shown much in the preseason, with just one catch for 13 yards. Based on what we’ve seen so far, McNutt is not going to contribute as a rookie. But if the Eagles like his potential, they could hang onto McNutt. The practice squad is also an option for him.

Darryl Tapp – The veteran is not going quietly. He’s had a strong preseason, beating Browns left tackle Joe Thomas for a sack and forced fumble on Friday night. Keep in mind that Tapp is only 27-years-old. He’s in the final year of his contract and is scheduled to make $2.575M. Perhaps another team would offer up a late-round pick for his services. If not, the Eagles could go heavy on the defensive line and hang onto Tapp.

Antonio Dixon – His chances of making the team increased when Andy Reid announced earlier this week that Mike Patterson might miss the entire season. Back in 2010, Dixon was one of the Eagles’ best defensive players, consistently making plays in the run game. But the Eagles hired Jim Washburn last offseason, and Dixon hasn’t been much of a factor since. He played four games in 2011 before suffering a season-ending triceps injury. The writing may have been on the wall this offseason when the Eagles re-signed Derek Landri, re-structured Cullen Jenkins’ contract and drafted Fletcher Cox in the first round. Those three players are clearly ahead of Dixon, and Cedric Thornton probably is also. If the Eagles keep five defensive tackles, he’s on. If not, he’s probably off.

Keenan Clayton – For much of the summer, we’ve been writing about how he’s battling with Akeem Jordan for a roster spot. Well, for now, Jordan is a starter, taking over the WILL spot from Brian Rolle. The Eagles like Clayton’s cover skills, as they kept him on the field as the lone linebacker in dime packages at the end of last season. Juan Castillo hinted yesterday that the Eagles could use their linebackers in specialized roles again this season. I don’t see Clayton knocking another linebacker, like Rolle or Casey Matthews, off the roster. Rolle appears fit for a backup spot, and the guess here is the coaches think Matthews has more upside than Clayton. If they keep seven linebackers, Clayton hangs on. If not, he’s likely out.

Brandon Hughes – He was active for 13 games last year and played 91 snaps on defense (per PFF), most of which came as a starter against the Patriots. The Eagles have decisions to make at the backup cornerback spots. Second-year player Curtis Marsh is a lock, and we know rookie Brandon Boykin will make the team. But beyond that, it gets interesting. We know Joselio Hanson can only play inside. And if Boykin beats Hanson out for the first-team nickel spot, Hanson probably doesn’t make the team. That would increase Hughes’ chances. Two things working in Hughes’ favor: He can play outside, and among defensive backs, he was the Eagles’ most productive special teams player in 2011.

Jaiquawn Jarrett – His status was one of the team’s biggest mysteries when camp started in Lehigh in late July. And in many ways, it remains that way as we approach final cuts. Jarrett had his moments at camp. There were glimpses of the player the Eagles described when they drafted him in the second round of the 2011 draft. But in a starting role against the Steelers in the first preseason game, he suffered miscue after miscue. The truth is, even if Jarrett lasts through the initial cut-down deadline, he shouldn’t get too comfortable. The Eagles could add a safety or two after other teams get down to 53.

Oshiomogho Atogwe – He’s been around all summer, but it’s difficult to get a feel on how Atogwe fits in. He battled hamstring, knee and toe injuries last season and is 31-years-old. Atogwe has missed the last two preseason games because of hamstring trouble. At practice, he’s running with the second team. With the Eagles lacking safety depth, Atogwe could make the team by default. But if he can’t get healthy, the Eagles could just let him go.

Julian Vandervelde – Offensive line depth is a concern. Vandervelde, a fifth-round pick in 2011, probably has the inside track on a spot, but he’s no lock. If the Eagles only keep one interior lineman active on gamedays, that player needs to be able to play guard and center. Vandervelde has been learning center on the fly this summer, but in the last preseason game, he botched one snap, resulting in a fumble, and let another go early, before Trent Edwards was ready for it. With Mike Gibson on IR, Vandervelde is competing with Steve Vallos and Dallas Reynolds for now. But the Eagles could add offensive line help from elsewhere once teams make cuts.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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  • What makes this so hard is what might be availible after the other teams make their cuts. For example, I saw that the Steelers cut S Myron Rolle (the Hun School Grad(Princeton, NJ) and Rhodes Scholar. He was highly thought of out of Florida State, but can he play? I think there will be a player or two that makes the 53 that is currently wearing another teams uniform.

    Stopping the run in the wide 9 has been an issue for this team so i think Dixon makes it and Thorton goes to the PS ( I think he still has eligibility) with McNutt and Hall. D. Johnson makes Hall redundant and The reports that McNutt is having trouble getting separation in camp concern me.

    Jarrett: This was quite possibly the biggest example of Andy’s “I’m smarter than everyone in the NFL” mentality. Most draftniks had no higher than a 5th round grade on JaiJar. It’s not his fault he is playing like a better than average Saftey in the MAC. That is what he is. The Birds reached, they were wrong. He was their sleeper pick that never woke up. Time to move one…OJ makes the team..P Thomas surprises everyone and makes the 53 for atl least a day or so.

    Polk should make the team or be traded. He will not last on the PS. Stash Havali or Emil on the PS incase he breaks down

    • OC

      I think Thornton is pretty much a lock for a roster spot

    • Thornton is a lock

      • ICDogg

        I agree. He’s not on the bubble.

    • Skeptic_Eagle

      If it comes down to Thornton vs. Dixon, I’d bet the house on Thornton. Thornton can be be the #2 NT (hopefully #3 at some point when Patterson returns) and #3 UT, Dixon could only be the #3 NT (Landri, Thornton, Dixon). Besides the versatility angle, Thornton has just made a lot more plays; against the pass and the run. Thornton’s a penetrator that splits double teams, Dixon’s a static block eater. Thornton fits, Dixon doesn’t.

      Patterson’s injury makes it likely that they’ll both make the team. If he ends up on IR, I’d say it’s a lock they go 5 DTs, 2 each for “Alpha” and “Bravo” lines, and one extra. Probably do the same with DE–Tapp makes too much green, Hunt’s played too well, and Curry’s got too much promise.

      • I agree that Thornton has performed better this pre-season as far as penetration in the back field. However, I think one of the draw backs to the wide nine is that the gaps between the DL are larger which allows the OL to move out on the to the LBs unimpeded. Remember last year when a few teams noticed that no one was on the center and DL was shooting the Guard/Tackle gap and the QB would just sneak it for 8 yards? They fixed that somewhat later in the season but it helps to make my point. Part of a DL job at times is to keep OL off the backers. In that context, I think Dixon fits their needs better.

        • Skeptic_Eagle

          I agree that there are weaknesses in the wide 9, and you cited a good example. However, the Eagles are going to run the wide 9 regardless of what we think of it. In that sense–right now–Thornton is a much better fit than Dixon, in the system the Eagles are running.

  • Chris Donegan

    They better keep my boy Tapp

    • ICDogg

      I still think he’s the odd man out. I really like Tapp though.

  • GW.Fisher

    If they run Boykin as the nickel guy/ return guy that frees up a position to keep a Tapp or Dixon around.

    • ICDogg

      I would be very surprised if they cut Hanson. On the other hand I was surprised last year when they did.

  • By the way, for other examples of Andy’s “I’m smarter than…” attitude, please head down to the library and borrow the following:

    “I Like my wide receivers: The Pinkston and Thrash Years”

    “How to take a guy that has never coached Defense-at any level- and make him your Defensive Coordinator”

    “Linebacker-Shmimebacker- Who needs ’em?” As a side, although not authored by Andy, he is featured prominently in the book: “How I stole money from the Philadelphia Eagles” by Greg Lloyd.

    “Andy’s guide to drafting D-Backs form lower level D-1 Conferences” also know as , “How I stole Jaiquawn Jarrett with a high second round pick”

    and finally, “Kolb, Pedersen and Feely: I really think these guys can play”

  • ICDogg

    The Eagles use a “nose tackle” and an “under tackle”. Jenkins, Cox, and Thornton are all primarily UTs. Patterson, Landri, and Dixon are NTs. I think Dixon will make it (not that he has done anything this offseason to particularly demonstrate he deserves to).

    • Skeptic_Eagle

      I thought Thornton played nose? Clearly remember him splitting a G/C double-team, keeping his balance, and hurrying a throw against the Patriots. Depth chart agrees with you, however.

      • ICDogg

        Yes, Thornton has filled in there when he had to.

  • ICDogg

    I don’t know if Chad Hall could possibly have done more to impress in the preseason. I’d have to think he is well ahead of McNutt.

  • jsb235

    This must mean that Phillip Thomas doesn’t make the team, which is a shame since he played pretty well (with one notable exception) against the Browns. Also, the Eagles appear to be screwed at safety this year. Allen and Atogwe are injured and Jarrett and Coleman are average to bad. It was refreshing to see Thomas flying around the field making plays against the Browns. Generally the Eagles’ safeties only know one play, which is pushing a receiver/running back out of bounds 20+ yards from the line of scrimmage.

    • I like Thomas too. I think he was hurt early on in camp and that may have held him back a bit.

  • Aaron Greene

    hanson has to be a lock. he’s looked good this preseason.